P.E.I. food lab testing cannabis, eyeing product development

Previously, cannabis products would have been sent off-Island for testing. Now, cannabis oils, extracts and edibles can be tested at Bio Food Tech for microorganisms.

Officials with the lab say cannabis testing is about more than confirming the level of active ingredients — THC and CBD — it’s about ensuring the product is microbiologically and chemically safe.

“For healthy individuals, some amount of microbial contamination is relatively harmless,” said Ebo Budu-Amoako, senior microbiologist and laboratory manager at the lab.

“But when we’re talking about patients that are using cannabis to treat conditions, these people might have immune systems that are compromised and that makes them susceptible to illness from microbial contamination in the cannabis.”

‘Every speck’ must be accounted for

Budu-Amoako said for scientists at BioFoodTech, working with cannabis has been a learning process with many new rules and restrictions to follow. 

“Whatever we take out of it, we subtract from what we’ve received and we have to account for those figures,” said Budu-Amoako.

“Any time somebody comes here to look at it, they know that every speck has been accounted for.” 

He said for the team at his lab, testing cannabis has meant increased safety, security, capacity and new equipment. Even the disposal of surplus cannabis products has rules around it — the product is mixed with other substances to render it unusable. 

Budu-Amoako said despite the restrictions of working with cannabis, scientists at the lab have enjoyed the new challenge. 

“It’s very exciting,” said Budu-Amoako.

“It’s a new area and a new method of accountability that we never used to do for other products before. So everybody’s learning a lot about how to be vigilant in the way things are handled.”

Provincial and federal labs are exempt from licensing requirements to do basic cannabis testing. But Bio Food Tech recently acquired an additional licence, planning to expand its services to include cannabis product development — all aimed at supporting the growing cannabis industry on P.E.I.

Charter hopes this will help save Island companies time and money. 

“We hope that companies having that local support will be beneficial to them as they’re trying to develop their business, so they don’t have to ship samples off-Island, and keep the business here,” he said.

Read full article with photos here.

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